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Devendra Fadnavis walking on tightrope and yet balancing so far

Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government has completed three years in power. Looking back at the three years, the association between the ruling BJP and its major associate in the state, Shiv Sena, has gone from bad to worse and both are plotting their individual roadmaps for the 2019 Parliament and Assembly elections. In the last three years, the Sena has issued many warnings to pull out from the coalition. Lack of trust and supremacy over each other has increased BJP-Sena conflict, but “power” has kept them together. The BJP, however, has had a relatively comfortable relationship with its smaller allies, barring Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) that chose to break away from the government. Moreover, NCP, which is tagged by Modi as National Corrupt Party, is now very close to BJP. Devendra Fadnavis’ voice was one of the loudest against the irrigation scam when he was in the opposition in the previous government. Once coming to power he turned deaf and dumb on investigations – which is expected to hit NCP, particularly its former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Water Resources minister Sunil Tatkare, but he went soft on the issue.

At the same time, the Chief Minister has not shown keenness in bringing into light the misdeeds of the previous government. After, Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar proposed a white paper on the state’s dismal financial performance in the past 15 years of UPA rule, the CM insisted that it be softened to a mere status report.

On the positive side, the government has taken steps to curb corruption in other areas involving NCP. The most prominent move in this regard is the dismissal of 170-odd Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs), including the Mumbai APMC, by minister for cooperatives Chandrakant Patil on November 10. Most of these APMCs had been granted extensions despite allegations of irregularities against them, and they were NCP dominated. This move is being seen as a serious blow to NCP because this party was known to have the strongest stranglehold over APMCs.

So what is the likely fate of the one of the biggest scams in the history of the state? It is impossible to tell as of now. Fadnavis has his job cut out for him, walking a tightrope between retaining NCP support and keeping the feisty Pawar family from calling too many shots. The people of Maharashtra can just hope Fadnavis manages the task effectively.

The past three years have been a miscellaneous for the government, though it did not have much trouble politically. It functioned well even as the BJP did not have a complete majority and had to rely on the support of upsetting ally Shiv Sena. Huge credit goes to Fadnavis, who exhibited his political management abilities. He did not let the opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party corner his government over any issues. He did not allow any such situation, where his government had to face critics from his counterparts.

The BJP has achieved success in the elections to municipal and district bodies that were held earlier this year. The biggest difference between the previous government and the current one is that Fadnavis is seen taking action. The perception of policy paralysis is gone. A number of infrastructure projects have been put on track. Efforts are being made to project Maharashtra as an investor-friendly state.

From Maharashtra, Mantralaya to Mumbai and media, he is at his best. He is proven to be the most interactive young Chief Minister, a fresh breeze in the power corridors of Maharashtra. At the same time, he ensured that encounters with Sena did not affect his government and routine. Shiv Sena makes continuous noise against the BJP outside the government, but doesn’t create any problems for Fadnavis inside. The two major agitations — first by the politically strong Maratha community for reservation in government jobs and education — and second — by the farmers’ outfits seeking a loan waiver — seem to have failed.

Meanwhile, there are many allegations on Fadnavis government that the Housing Minister Prakash Mehta helped builders rocked the assembly. Social Justice Minister Rajkumar Badole was accused of vested interests when his daughter’s name appeared in the list of socially backward class students getting government aid to study abroad. Fadnavis always kept on defending his ministers, denying taking action against them. Even the opposition had failed to corner him over these issues. The weak opposition helped Devendra to sail through controversies without any encounter. Still, he has certain problems at hand, which are not as easy as tackling the opposition.

Post demonetisation, there has been a stoppage in many sectors. The GST is likely to impact the state’s revenue in the short run. Fadnavis has less than two years in hand — 18 months if the state assembly elections are held along with the Lok Sabha elections in 2019. With the government more than Rs 4 lakh crore in debt and not much increase in revenue, Fadnavis and his Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar will have to do a lot of juggling. They will need resources and capital to take up new projects or new mainstream schemes in the run-up to the elections. The BJP will contest the next election under his leadership. It also means Fadnavis will have to deliver on his promises in the coming days.

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Dr. Vaidehi Taman
Dr. Vaidehi is an Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and an Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. Since 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond the news (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which she caters for her sister-concern Kaizen-India Infosec Solutions Pvt. Ltd.

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